Vehicle Style: Small five-door hatch
Price: $27,340 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 96kW/230Nm 1.2 turbo petrol 3cyl | 6spd automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.2 l/100km | tested: 7.3 l/100km
After an almost year-long delay while Peugeot tooled-up for production of automatic models, the French automaker’s all-new 308 range is now in Australia.
The new 308 also happens to have been voted European Car Of The Year for 2014.
After spending some time behind the wheel on local roads, we can understand why: this is a damn good car.
How good? Well, it’s got plenty of Euro panache, an uncluttered interior design which shows the Germans that clean styling doesn’t have to be boring, and driving manners that come achingly close to the Volkswagen Golf.
But, like the Golf, there’s a premium involved for the 308. While the base model 308 Access costs a not-unreasonable $21,990, the mid-grade 308 Active tested here is a $27,340.
Considering you get a 96kW 1.2 litre in the 308 while similarly-priced competitors like the Mazda3 have over 110kW and boast features like sat-nav as standard, value isn’t the 308’s strongest suit.
So then, what is? Quite a few things, as it turns out.
Quality: Materials are outstanding, with a pleasingly soft-touch dashboard, nicely textured cabin plastics and supple leather on the steering wheel and shifter.
Fit and finish is also excellent, and the cloth upholstery on the mid-grade Active feels appealing and durable.
Comfort: The 308’s front seats are well-contoured and give good support to the lower back, though only the driver gets an adjustable lumbar support. Both front seats however are adjustable for height.
Most importantly, there’s finally a generous amount of adjustment in the steering column.
While the previous-gen 308 forced the driver into an arms-out posture (unless you had shortish legs), the new 308’s better cabin layout allows a more natural and relaxed driving position.
It’s the same size as the 208’s steering wheel, and it fits comfortably in the palm of your hands.
There’s only one cupholder between the front seats though, and it’s a shallow one that has a tough time keeping narrow cans in check.
The back seats are, like the front seats, firm in their cushioning yet sculpted nicely. Two adults can sit in the back in good comfort, and they get door bins and cupholders to make their journey a little more comfortable.
However unlike the Golf, there are no face-level rear air-outlets in the 308.
Equipment: With so few controls left on the centre console, the 308 Active’s dashboard is well-and-truly dominated by its 7-inch colour touchscreen display.
The climate control, phone, audio and trip-computer functions are now controlled via this one screen, which can be a bit of a pain if you want to alter the temperature then change the radio station, for example.
But once you get used to it, it works reasonably well.
Other features standard on the Active grade include cruise control, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, a single-disk CD player, AM/FM radio and USB audio input.
Storage: With the rear seats up there’s a generous 435 litres of boot space. Fold the 60/40 split seats down and you score up to 1274 litres of cargo room.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Remember how we said the 308’s 1.2 litre three-pot has only 96kW? It’s true, that’s not as impressive a number as, say, the Mazda3 2.0’s 114kW.
But, thanks to turbocharging the 308 does better in one crucial metric: torque.
While the Mazda3’s 2.0 litre has 200Nm of torque, the Peugeot’s 1.2 has a meatier 230Nm. It’s spread across a broader rev range too, giving the 308 better tractability.
We should also point out that it has more power (by 6kW) and more torque (by 30Nm) than the turbo 1.4 litre four in the VW Golf 90TSI.
The six-speed automatic it’s paired to (there’s no manual option in the Active model grade) is reasonably well-sorted, though kickdown response can be a touch slow at times and we experienced the occasional harsh shift.
Refinement: The new 308 is remarkably refined, with a level of sound and vibration suppression that’s difficult to beat in this segment.
It rides smoothly and quietly on its 16-inch alloys on coarse chip roads, and there’s little wind noise to speak of. Build quality is also exceptional, and there were no rattles to be heard while in our care.
Ride and Handling: Another high point for the 308. This is a suspension that proves you can have compliance and dynamic handling at the same time, and it’s one that’s perfectly suited to Australian roads.
The 308 feels light on its feet, because it IS light. Weighing just 1130kg, the 308 Active weighs about the same as many hatches in the size-category below.
The electric power steering is also responsive and quick, a sensation heightened by the wheel’s small diameter.
Light weight, fast steering and a well-honed chassis are a great combo, and the 308 is all the better for having all three.
Braking: There are disc brakes at each corner, and the pedal responds smoothly and progressively. Even under emergency stop conditions, the 308 pulls up smartly.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - The 308 scored 35.82 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing, however it should be noted that this score applies only to diesel-engined models.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist and six airbags are standard on all 308 models.
Rear parking sensors are standard on the Active grade, but a camera and front sensors are not available.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Under Peugeot’s 5-year capped price servicing scheme, scheduled maintenance for the 308 ranges in price from $335 to $605. Intervals are set for every 12 months/15000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Volkswagen Golf 90TSI Comfortline DSG ($27,740) - It’s got a better-equipped cabin (usable cupholders and rear vents for a start), but it's a tie for quality-feel between the Golf and the 308.
It’s also hard to separate the two for ride and handling as well. The 308 has a more powerful and torquier engine, but the Golf’s DSG is the more refined transmission. It’s an awfully even match between these two cars. (see Golf reviews)
Mazda3 Touring automatic ($27,490) - The Mazda3 has impressed us since its launch in early 2014, and it’s a cracking car to drive.
However, a smallish back seat and high levels of road noise hurt its appeal, and there’s no overlooking its 30Nm torque deficit against the 308’s turbo engine. All told though, it’s a solid alternative. (see Mazda3 reviews)
Renault Megane GT-Line petrol ($26,990) - It’s French and has a 1.2 litre turbo engine, but that’s about it as far as similarities with the 308.
The Megane GT-Line gets a bit more standard kit and a lower price tag, but less torque, a less-liveable twin-clutch automatic, and an interior that’s past its retirement age. (see Megane reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It truly represents a return to form for Peugeot. It’s a smart-looking hatch that doesn’t carry a huge premium, handles like a dream and is built to an incredibly high standard.
There is enough French flair - like a tachometer that winds anti-clockwise - and some personality that sets it apart, but, on the whole, it is simply a very well-polished and appealing product.
It could do with a bit more equipment as standard though. A reversing camera at the very least, perhaps sat-nav if Peugeot is feeling generous. However, at least all of the essentials are there.
Importantly, as a European contender in this hard-fought small car segment. the new 308 has the right stuff to stand toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye with the Volkswagen Golf, which has long been the gold standard here.
That’s how good it is.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol manual - $21,990
- 308 Access Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $23,990
- 308 Active Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $27,340
- 308 Allure Hatch - 1.2 petrol auto - $30,490
- 308 Allure Hatch - 2.0 diesel auto - $34,790
- 308 Allure Touring - 2.0 diesel auto - $37,490
Due end Q1 2015:
- 308 Allure Hatch 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 Allure Touring 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 Allure Premium Hatch 1.6 petrol auto - TBC
- 308 GT Hatch 1.6 petrol manual - TBC
- 308 GT Hatch 2.0 diesel auto - TBC